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EXPLORATIONS: AN OPEN INVITATION TO BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Editors: Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera and Lara Braff

American Anthropological Association Arlington, VA

2019

CC BY-NC 4.0 International, except where otherwise noted

ISBN ? 978-1-931303-63-7

www.explorations.americananthro.org

Chapter 11: Archaic Homo
Amanda Wolcott Paskey, M.A., Cosumnes River College AnnMarie Beasley Cisneros, M.A., American River College

BREAKING THE STIGMA OF THE ?CAVEMAN?

Figure 11.1 Popular perceptions of human ancestors at the transition to modern Homo sapiens often take the form of the stereotypical, and inaccurate, ?caveman.?

What do you think of when you hear the word ?caveman?? Perhaps you imagine a character from a film such as The Croods, Tarzan, or Encino Man or from the cartoon The Flintstones. Maybe you picture the tennis-playing, therapy-going hairy Neanderthals from Geico Insurance commercials. Or perhaps you imagine comic characters from ?The Far Side? or ?B.C.? comics. Whichever you picture, the character in your mind is likely stooped over with a heavy brow, tangled long locks and other body hair, and clothed in animal skins, if anything. They might be holding a club with a confused look on their face, standing at the entrance to a cave or dragging an animal carcass to a fire for their next meal see Figure 11.1). You might have even signed up to take this course because of what you knew?or expected to learn?about ?cavemen.?
These images have long been the stigma and expectation about our ancestors at the transition to modern Homo sapiens. Tracing back to works as early as Linnaeus, scientists once propagated and advanced this imagery, creating a clear picture in the minds of early scholars that informed the general public, even through today, that archaic Homo sapiens, ?cavemen,? were somehow distinctly different and much less

intelligent than we are now. Unfortunately, this view is incorrect, overly simplistic, and misleading. Understanding what archaic Homo sapiens were actually like requires a much more complex and nuanced picture, one that continues to be

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